It is in this context that the Catholic faithful of the Archdiocese of Palo is preparing for the upcoming visit of Pope Francis. His visit is a first not only in the life of the archdiocese but also in the history of the entire Eastern Visayas. As we eagerly await the visit of Pope Francis, a huge task must be undertaken to ensure the success of his apostolic journey. In addition to the preparations for the arrival of the pope himself, it is also important highlight the preparations for the arrival of over a million pilgrims from all over the region and the rest of Visayas who will come to meet the pope.
- All preparations for the papal visit should first and foremost highlight and should not hinder its spiritual significance.The overriding consciousness, motivation, goal and prayer of each and everyone involved in the preparation, implementation and celebration of all events and/or activities related to the Papal Visit, shall be to evoke a vibrant and fruitful response – personal, communal, national and international – to the call of Pope Francis for peace, mercy and solidarity with the poor.
- All technical and event committee chairpersons are to identify and appoint the members of their respective committees, convene their meetings, finalize their action plans, strategies and logistical requirements and submit it to the Executive Committee for approval not later than 10 December 2014.
- The Executive Committee shall accept and review all advisories, recommendations and suggestions from the technical and event committees and through its own discernment and observation gleaned from the preparatory work being done, may adopt changes the programs, strategies and activities related to the papal visit. It may likewise create new committees or subcommittees in order to 2satisfactorily meet all concerns which might not be sufficiently covered by the existing organizational structure.
- The Executive Committee through its own efforts, as well as upon the recommendation of the CBCP Central Committee or the National Organizing Committee for the Papal Visit, will regularly and closely coordinate with the pertinent authorities and/or offices of the Vatican, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and the Philippine Government for the efficient and effective implementation of the events of the Papal Visit.
- In the event of overlapping of concerns and/or functions among the different committees and/or events, the chairpersons affected should either resolve the matter among themselves and/or coordinate for the immediate resolution of the issue.
- Technical and event committees may have as much as many members needed to attend to their assigned tasks. Committees shall meet at a regular frequency for the follow-up and supervision of their respective areas of concern and to ensure and maintain the commitment and the efficient implementation of their action plans. All committees shall be required to record the minutes of all meetings including a summary of all action steps that were proposed and undertaken to be submitted to the Executive Committee.
- The Executive Committee shall continuously assess and monitor the projects of the work being undertaken by the technical and event committees.
Pastoral Preparation and its Practical Significance
The pope’s visit is primarily a spiritual event. Thus, an intense pastoral preparation is necessary as the Christian faithful reflects on the significance of the coming of the universal pastor of the Catholic Church and on his message of mercy and compassion. Nevertheless, emphasizing the pastoral aspect of his visit will have a practical value on the material preparations being undertaken for the pope’s visit. By keeping a prayerful atmosphere during the visit, not only will it help the faithful gain from it spiritually, but it will also facilitate the several practical arrangements being made in terms of event organization, coordination and management. The pastoral preparation can keep the faithful particularly the pilgrims focused on the spiritual significance of the papal visit and thus ensure the full cooperation during the preparation.
- Official pilgrim delegates shall undergo a focused catechetical and spiritual preparation especially in their parishes and dioceses of origin. The pastoral formation will ensure that the pilgrims do not only understand the spiritual significance of the visit but it could also serve as a pre-registration mechanism and an effective means of screening the pilgrims. Pre-registered pilgrim delegates will be given priority at the papal mass venue and will be issued proper identification cards. Official diocesan and parish delegations will be encouraged to wear a delegation shirt for easy identification.
- The pastoral formation provides an opportunity to effectively disseminate information regarding the different events during the papal visit. Information kits shall be provided to all pilgrim delegates. Practical guidelines can also be discussed during the catechetical program. It is very important though that the civil authorities take advantage of the preparatory formation as an avenue for information sharing and practical coordination.
- With relatively limited number of faithful who can possible attend the papal mass, the pastoral preparation can enable those who cannot attend in person to participate in the spiritual benefits of the papal visit. This will help control the number of persons who will attend the papal mass, yet ensure the widest participation possible by all during the papal visit.
- The pastoral formation should also provide an opportunity for the accreditation, selection, preparation and orientation of all volunteers during the papal visit. It is very important that the volunteers understand that their task is a special form of ministry that is crucial to the overall success of the visit of the pope.
- The pastoral preparation will help highlight the papal visit as primarily as lasting spiritual experience rather than just a single event, thus it become in fact a “celebration of faith”. The practical preparations should serve to reinforce and not hinder the spiritual significance. Everyone involved in the preparation should take this into consideration especially in carrying out their responsibilities during the papal visit.
- The important role of the parishes within the city of Tacloban and municipality of Palo should be underscored. Every opportunity should be extended to these parishes to directly participate in the preparations for the papal visit.
Coordination with the Civil Authorities
As the papal journey is also a state visit, the civil authorities will have to play a very important role. Close coordination between the archdiocese and the representatives of both the national and local governments is of utmost importance. Specific aspects of the papal visit are entirely the responsibility of the civil authorities such as safety and security, traffic management and even the observance of proper protocol during the pope’s arrival and departure. The assistance of the civil authorities is also required to complement the preparations being undertaken by the archdiocese in terms if logistics, site preparation and the management of specific events in the program. With the limited financial resources available to the archdiocese, any financial support that the government can extend will definitely be appreciated.
- It is primarily important to determine and define at the soonest possible time those aspects of papal visit that the civil authorities are willing and able to take responsibility, both in the preparation and the actual event. The civil authorities must specify as clearly as possible the extent of their material, financial and practical contributions for the different aspects of the papal visit and thus clarify beforehand what the archdiocese can expect from the government. Efforts to ensure full transparency and accountability in the use of government funds and other resources should be carried out.
- A mechanism to ensure the harmonization of the efforts made by both the archdiocese and the civil authorities shall be implemented so that efforts are not duplicated, resources are used efficiently and that the interests of both the archdiocese and the government are served and protected. It is important that a coordinating mechanism shall be arranged between the different working committees organized by the archdiocese and the government. Joint meetings between the different committees shall be conducted on a regular schedule.
- Since the papal visit is primarily a spiritual event, the archdiocese reserves the right to approve or at least be informed of all actions and efforts to be undertaken even by the civil authorities. Arrangements must be defined to facilitate coordination between the archdiocese and the government.
- Local governments are enjoined to play an active role in the preparation and every opportunity should be afforded to them to contribute according to their capacity. The national government should ensure that local governments are able to carry out their role, providing support whenever necessary.
- The archdiocese should encourage the participation of the private sector in the preparations for the papal visit particularly to complement the efforts being undertaken by the civilian authorities. Close coordination should be made with business enterprises whose services would be needed by pilgrims such as hotels, restaurants and transportation services.
The success of the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to Eastern Visayas will depend not only on the singlehanded efforts of the archdiocese but also on the amount of collaboration between the archdiocese, the civil authorities and even the private sector. It is hoped that by working together the papal visit will not only provide comfort and solace to those affected by typhoon Haiyan but will be remembered as a singular moment of grace for local Church of Palo but will serve as a lasting blessing to all the people of Eastern Visayas.